Italy president taps Berlusconi ally to try to break impasse
ROME (AP) — Italy’s president on Wednesday tapped the Senate president, a longtime supporter of ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi, to explore possible alliances to create a governing majority in Parliament, more than a month after Italy’s inconclusive elections.
As leader of the Senate, Maria Elisabetta Casellati holds the second-highest position in Italy’s governing institutions, making her the logical choice after two rounds of presidential-led consultations failed to break an impasse.
But there was no indication Casellati would succeed where President Sergio Mattarella has failed. The two leading political blocs after the March 4 vote have failed to find agreement or even meet one-on-one.
The leader of the populist 5-Star Movement, Luigi Di Maio, has refused to be part of any government that includes Berlusconi and has tried to woo the xenophobic League away from Berlusconi’s Forza Italia. Berlusconi, whose Forza Italia remains a significant power in the center-right bloc that won 37 percent of the vote, has called Di Maio’s 5-Stars undemocratic.
Mattarella gave Casellati until Friday to report back on any progress in breaking the logjam. After meeting for 45 minutes with the president Wednesday, Casellati said she would work “with the same spirit of service” that she has given to heading up the Senate, saying she’d quickly schedule consultations with the various parties.
Berlusconi emerged from the consultations insisting he had never imposed a “veto” on a possible alliance with the 5-Stars, saying it was the 5-Stars’ Di Maio who had vetoed Forza Italia.
If Casellati fails to find a workable alliance, Mattarella could then tap the president of the lower Chamber of Deputies, Roberto Fico of the 5-Stars, for another exploratory round of consultations.